POLICING COVID-19: Keeping Communities Safe During a Global Pandemic
Enforcement of emergency regulations with each phase of COVID-19 unwinding of restrictions becoming more difficult according to AGSI
Media clips from AGSI on the Policing COVID-19 SURVEY
A detailed review of the policing of COVID-19 by Sergeants and Inspectors has been undertaken by its representative association.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) surveyed its members in mid-June after they had worked the new contingency Roster for 12 weeks.
The details of the survey were released from the Association’s National Executive meeting taking place in Portlaoise today (8 July, 2020).
According to the Association the findings provide “lessons learned” for the Garda Organisation and for the Department of Justice. In particular, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions is proving challenging for AGSI members who say it is becoming more difficult to police these regulations.
General Secretary, Antoinette Cunningham says the first lesson learned centres on the emergency regulations which were put in place to safeguard public health.
“We were left without adequate guidance and training and relied on the media to ask questions about how Gardaí would police COVID-19 regulations. The initial guidance for policing experienced an unacceptable delay. Confusion still reins on whether it is liquor licensing laws or health regulations that are to be enforced by our members.
“The lessons learned in this regard must result in a combined response from the Department of Justice and Garda management to provide operational guidelines and appropriate training along with legislative changes.”
Other notable findings include:
- The 12-hour Roster was overwhelmingly welcomed by members
- There was a greater sense of community policing and connectedness to the public during the emergency
- Public interaction was deemed highly positive from our members’ perspective
- The public responsiveness to the emergency regulations was largely deemed positive
- There is a sense that Garda Management did not make the welfare of members a priority
- Members highlighted an increase in Supervision during this period
- Members would have welcome increased PPE to protect themselves and the public against the potential spread of the coronavirus where physical distancing was not possible
- The introduction of spit hoods as an extra layer of PPE was welcomed and a preference for them to be retained as standard protective gear for frontline officers when the policing of COVID-19 is over was expressed
- Members said their knowledge of the emergency regulations was poor in the early days due to a lack of clear guidelines on implementation
- With the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions members said it became more difficult to enforce the emergency regulations
- Communications from Garda Management would need improvement
- There were also mixed reviews of the Buddy system
- Members reported a need for Garda Management to provide better support around childcare and self-isolating facilities
Antoinette Cunningham says the results of this survey provide valuable insights that all stakeholders can learn from as we navigate COVID-19 now and into the future.
“Until there is a vaccine we will have to live with the virus and policing restrictions may become a feature of our work in the short term.
“We are all conscious of the challenges that remain in policing this pandemic and are guided by the advice and cautions issued by National Public Health Emergency Team in relation to a possible second waves.
We would ask Garda Management and the Department of Justice to consider the results of this survey from a lesson learned point of view, and to consider the views of Sergeants and Inspectors when introducing or improving operational policing measures.”
- 52% response rate
- 2,285 members (available on email)
- Core: 46%
- DDC / Specialist: 19%
- Non-Core: 18%
- Other 17%
- 7am-7pm x 2 & 7pm-7am x 2: 54%
- 7am-7pm x 2 & 4pm-4am x 2: 21%
- Same Roster as Pre-COVID: 16%
- 7am-7pm x 4: 9%
[Key Findings] CONTINGENCY ROSTER
- 74% highly satisfied/satisfied with 12-hour Roster
- 83% would like to see 12-hour Roster piloted under normal policing conditions
- 85% would like to see 12-hour Roster explored as part of future national Roster negotiations
- 47% reported experiencing increased levels of Supervision during the contingency Roster, 32% reported no noticeable change
- 64% reported being able to provide a more effective policing service on the contingency Roster, 25% said a somewhat effective policing service
- 79% said the 12-hour Roster and extra resourcing allowed for a more community-focused approach to policing
- 32% said they were satisfied with the Buddy System introduced as a measure to assist in the policing of COVID-19; 52% were ambivalent
- 42% said the Buddy system didn’t work in practice, 32% said it did
- 55% said extra supervision was required for new recruits released from the Garda College early to assist in the policing of COVID-19
[Key Findings] COVID-19 Public Restrictions
- 79% reported general policing duties being reduced (temporarily) due to restrictions of the movement of people and the holding of events and festivals
[Key Findings] COVID-19 PPE
- 68% reported inadequate PPE in place for members and those under their Supervision at the beginning of the COVID-19 restrictions
- 61% said members should wear face masks when physical distancing of 2 metres is not possible when interacting with members of the public
- 87% welcomed the introduction of spit hoods as an additional layer of PPE to protect members under their supervision from deliberate coughing and spitting incidents
- 86% said spit hoods should be retained as an additional layer of PPE after the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic
[Key Findings] PUBLIC INTERACTIONS
- 92% reported high levels of positive interactions with the public during the emergency regulations for themselves and Gardaí under their Supervision
- 97% reported a positive response from the public to the role of members of An Garda Síochána in policing COVID-19
- 94% said that with the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions it became more difficult to enforce the emergency regulations
[Key Findings] MANAGEMENT RESPONSE
- 62% said the Garda organisation should have provided facilities for members to self-isolate away from their families if needed after a policing related COVID-19 incident such as coming into close contact with a suspected case, being spat or being coughed at deliberately
- 94% said that members should have access to priority testing for COVID-19 and also priority test results
- 67% felt that the emergency policing regulations were not adequately explained or informed to them by Garda Management at the beginning
- 58% of members felt communication from Garda management around COVID-19 policing measures needs improvement
- 63% said Garda Management did not adequately address issues relating to childcare during the contingency Roster
- 44% said welfare of members is not a priority by the Garda organisation during COVID-19
- 52% said there are welfare issues that have not been addressed by the Garda organisation to date